10 Books I Completely Failed to Read Last Year

Posted 23rd January 2024 by Sia in Lists, Top Ten Tuesdays / 2 Comments


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog!

This week’s prompt is all about the books we managed not to read in 2023, despite absolutely meaning to! Narrowing it down to just ten was pretty hard…

The Seep by Chana Porter
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Sapphic trans MC

Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity calling itself The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.

Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seep-tech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.

Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina chases after a young boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind.

GAH. How did I not get to This??? I loved Porter’s The Thick and the Lean, and The Seep is her only other book so far! It’s hard to find authors whose prose I really love, and The Seep sounds honestly very cool. But also kinda tragic? That might be why I’m hesitating to push it to the top of the tbr…

Cold Fire (Spiritwalker, #2) by Kate Elliott
Genres: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Representation: Brown MCs

Only one thing is certain: when Hallows' Night comes, the Wild Hunt will ride - and it feeds on mortal blood.

Cat and her cousin Bee are caught in a maze of intrigue, treachery, and magic. Everyone seems to want something from them: the Cold Mages are trying to take them prisoner, and the warlord who wants to conquer all of Europa seems sure they have a special destiny to aid him whether they want to or not. Worse, hidden powers deep in the spirit world are rising, and they are the most dangerous of all. Cat must seek allies and figure out who she can trust in order to save the ones she loves. For if she doesn't, everything will be lost.

Note: Bonus chapter 31.5 is located on the author's website. You can find it here: http://www.kateelliott.com/default.as...

I loved the first book in this trilogy, and I need to know how the story continues! Especially since Elliot is releasing a collection of short stories set in this verse later this year, if I remember correctly! There’s no point at all in pouncing on that before I’ve finished reading the trilogy!

Ice Song by Kirsten Imani Kasai
Genres: Queer Protagonists, Sci Fi
Representation: Genderfluid MC

“Reminiscent of Ursula Le Guin’s paradigm-shattering The Left Hand of Darkness , this piercingly moving story belongs in most fantasy collections.” — Library Journal

There are secrets beneath her skin.

Sorykah Minuit is a scholar, an engineer, and the sole woman aboard an ice-drilling submarine in the frozen land of the Sigue. What no one knows is that she is also a one who can switch genders suddenly, a rare corporeal deviance universally met with fascination and superstition and all too often punished by harassment or death.

Sorykah’s infant twins, Leander and Ayeda, have inherited their mother’s Trader genes. When a wealthy, reclusive madman known as the Collector abducts the babies to use in his dreadful experiments, Sorykah and her male alter-ego, Soryk, must cross icy wastes and a primeval forest to get them back. Complicating the dangerous journey is the fact that Sorykah and Soryk do not share Each disorienting transformation is like awakening with a jolt from a deep and dreamless sleep.

The world through which the alternating lives of Sorykah and Soryk travel is both familiar and surreal. Environmental degradation and genetic mutation run amok; humans have been distorted into animals and animal bodies cloak a wild humanity. But it is also a world of unexpected beauty and wonder, where kindness and love endure amid the ruins. Alluring, intense, and gorgeously rendered, Ice Song is a remarkable debut by a fiercely original new writer.

Praise for Ice Song

“A stunning debut fantasy about love and the ties of blood.” —Armchair Interviews

“Kasai’s debut is a boldly adventurous tale depicting a richly detailed world. The aspect of Traders shifting gender brings Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness to mind, while the activities on Chen’s island are more reminiscent of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry novels.” — Booklist

“Ice Song is definitely a compelling read, largely due to the fact that Sorykah is such a well-developed character. She has an equally intense and complex sense of love and resentment for her children. And the fact that she exists between the world of humans and the mutants is also a source of conflict for her character . . . Ice Song is a near-perfect combination of fantasy, great storytelling and social commentary.” — Philadelphia Gay News

Shapeshifters! Shapeshifters who shift gender! Also: parents questing to rescue their kids! This ticks so many of my buttons – it’s waiting for me at the top of my tbr – I really have no explanation for how I failed to get to it. HOPEFULLY THIS YEAR!

In Charm's Way (The Witches of Thistle Grove, #4) by Lana Harper
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: F/F

A witch struggling to regain what she has lost casts a forbidden spell—only to discover much more than she expected, in this enchanting new rom-com by New York Times bestselling author Lana Harper.

Six months after having been hit by a power surge that nearly obliterated her memory, Delilah Harlow is still picking up the pieces. Her once diamond-sharp mind has become shaky and unreliable, and bristly, self-sufficient Delilah is forced to rely on friends, family, and her raven familiar for help. In an effort to reclaim her wits and former independence, she casts a dangerous blood spell meant to harness power with healing capacities.

While the spell does restore clarity, it also unexpectedly turns Delilah into an irresistible beacon for the kind of malevolent supernatural creatures that have never before ventured into Thistle Grove. One night—just as things are about to go terribly sideways with a rogue succubus—a mysterious stranger appears in the nick of time to save Delilah's soul.

Gorgeous, sultry, and as dangerous as the knives she carries, Catriona Quinn is a hunter of monsters—and half-human, half-fae herself, she is the kind of sly and morally gray creature Delilah would normally find horrifying. Though Delilah balks at the idea of a partnership, she has no choice but to roll the dice on their collaboration. As the two delve deeper into the power that underlies Thistle Grove, they uncover not only the town's hidden history but also a risky attraction that could upend Delilah's entire life.

I was so looking forward to this, because the existence of monster hunters and fae implies a massive expansion of the worldbuilding for this series! Plus, Witches of Thistle Grove has been my cosy-but-interesting series (not including book 3, which was great, but didn’t rock the nonbinary rep). Despite a lot of mood-reading last year, I guess I wasn’t often in the right mood for cosy-but-interesting-and-new – rereads of old faves were easier on my brain. But I very much want to get to this one!

Shorefall (The Founders Trilogy, #2) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Genres: Fantasy
Representation: Sapphic MC

The upstart firm Foundryside is struggling to make it. Orso Igancio and his star employee, former thief Sancia Grado, are accomplishing brilliant things with scriving, the magical art of encoding sentience into everyday objects, but it's not enough. The massive merchant houses of Tevanne won't tolerate competition, and they're willing to do anything to crush Foundryside.

But even the merchant houses of Tevanne might have met their match. An immensely powerful and deadly entity has been resurrected in the shadows of Tevanne, one that's not interested in wealth or trade routes: a hierophant, one of the ancient practitioners of scriving. And he has a great fascination for Foundryside, and its employees - especially Sancia.

Now Sancia and the rest of Foundryside must race to combat this new menace, which means understanding the origins of scriving itself - before the hierophant burns Tevanne to the ground.

Foundryside, the first book, didn’t blow one away at first…but the last chunk of the book was epic, and I’d really like to check out the rest of the trilogy. Especially after having just finished Tainted Cup, book one of Bennett’s new series (review to come) I’m really craving more of his incredible worldbuilding!

City of Refuge (Maya Greenwood, #3) by Starhawk
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: QBIPOC cast

Every city needs three things: a plaza, a hearth, and a sacred tree...

In the violent, desperate world of 2048, eco-catastrophes and societal breakdown have left the country splintered. Yet amidst the ruins stands a green and flourishing city where four things are sacred—Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. When the ruthless Stewards of the Southlands invade, the people of Califia defeat them using nonviolence and magic. But they’ll be back, unless the northerners can liberate the Southlands first.

Healer Madrone struggles to repair the wounds of war and deprivation. Soldier/defector River leads an Army of Liberation to the south. Bird, musician turned guerrilla, longs to return to the fight, but now he’s pledged to deeper powers. How can they build a new world when people are so deeply wounded by the old?

Madrone has a dream... Build a city of refuge in the heartland of the enemy.

I want to read this so much…The Fifth Sacred Thing, the book that precedes this one, is not just an all-time fave, but a book that’s shaped so much of my life. I’m just dreading, or at least well aware of, how many spoons it’s going to take to tackle City of Refuge. Because this book tackles a lot – including the one thing harder than revolution: the rebuilding that comes after the revolution. And I’ve felt so fragile – for a long time now, it seems like – that I don’t feel up to the task.

But damn it, I will read this book!!! I just…don’t know when.

Painted Devils (Little Thieves, #2) by Margaret Owen
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Demisexual-coded MC, demisexual-coded love interest, secondary sapphic characters and F/F or wlw, very minor nonbinary characters, queernorm world

Let’s get one thing straight—Vanja Schmidt wasn’t trying to start a cult.

After taking down a corrupt margrave, breaking a deadly curse, and finding romance with the vexingly scrupulous Junior Prefect Emeric Conrad, Vanja had one great mystery left: her long-lost birth family… and if they would welcome a thief. But in her search for an honest trade, she hit trouble and invented a god, the Scarlet Maiden, to scam her way out. Now, that lie is growing out of control—especially when Emeric arrives to investigate, and the Scarlet Maiden manifests to claim him as a virgin sacrifice.

For his final test to become a prefect, Emeric must determine if Vanja is guilty of serious fraud, or if the Scarlet Maiden—and her claim to him—are genuine. Meanwhile, Vanja is chasing an alternative sacrifice that may be their way out. The hunt leads her not only into the lairs of monsters and the paths of gods, but the ties of her past. And with what should be the simplest way to save Emeric hanging over their heads, he and Vanja must face a more dangerous question: Is there a future for a thief and a prefect, and at what price?

Margaret Owens is one of my favourite authors, so I have no idea how Painted Devils slipped through my fingers! I have a copy waiting to be read, but somehow I just didn’t get to it (despite reading the first couple of chapters and majorly enjoying them!) Gotta make time for this.

Redemptor (Raybearer, #2) by Jordan Ifueko
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy
Representation: African-inspired setting & cast, major asexual character, minor gay characters

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar's throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that's what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can't quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.

I loved the first book in this series so much…and somehow I still have not read the sequel. I don’t think it helps that so many readers I know have said that this just doesn’t live up to the first book… but that’s something I want to determine for myself! My opinion often differs from the majority; hopefully it will this time too.

The Queens of Innis Lear (Innis Lear, #1) by Tessa Gratton
Genres: Fantasy

A kingdom at risk, a crown divided, a family drenched in blood.

The erratic decisions of a prophecy-obsessed king have drained Innis Lear of its wild magic, leaving behind a trail of barren crops and despondent subjects. Enemy nations circle the once-bountiful isle, sensing its growing vulnerability, hungry to control the ideal port for all trade routes.

The king's three daughters—battle-hungry Gaela, master manipulator Reagan, and restrained, starblessed Elia—know the realm's only chance of resurrection is to crown a new sovereign, proving a strong hand can resurrect magic and defend itself. But their father will not choose an heir until the longest night of the year, when prophecies align and a poison ritual can be enacted.

Refusing to leave their future in the hands of blind faith, the daughters of Innis Lear prepare for war—but regardless of who wins the crown, the shores of Innis will weep the blood of a house divided.

Some of my all-time faves are Tessa Gratton’s weird, dark, queer YAs (like Night Shine and Moon Dark Smile) so it’s not that weird that I want to try out their Adult stuff! Especially since Queens is most heartily recommended by my book-bestie. I’m not especially interested in Shakespeare retellings, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about this one, from every corner – I just need to sit down and read it!

The Jaguar Path (The Songs of the Drowned, #2) by Anna Stephens
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Central American-coded cast, Deaf MC, M/M, bi/pansexual MC, queernorm world

The Empire of Songs reigns supreme. Across all the lands of Ixachipan, its hypnotic, magical music sounds. Those who battled against the Empire have been enslaved and dispersed, taken far from their friends and their homes.

In the Singing City, Xessa must fight for the entertainment of her captors. Lilla and thousands of warriors are trained to serve as weapons for their enemies. And Tayan is trapped at the heart of the Empire’s power and magic, where the ruthless Enet’s ambition is ever growing.
Each of them harbours a secret hope, waiting for a chance to strike at the Empire from within.

But first they must overcome their own desires. Power can seduce as well as crush. And, in exchange for their loyalty, the Empire promises much.

I think this is another case of, I do not feel strong enough to tackle this book. I loved the first one, but it was properly grimdark, and I have every reason to think this is going to be even darker. How does one get into the right headspace for dark reads, readers of dark things??? I’ll have to figure it out fast, because the third and final book is coming out pretty soon!

That makes 10! Are any of these on your tbr? Have you read them already? Let me know your thoughts!

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